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A Question of Honor

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Invasion F-013

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Adapted from Janet Lynn Andrews’s Personal Log

   I sat glaring at my brother sitting on the other side of the table. He was there representing the interests of the bugs during the final round of peace talks. His being there upset the ambassador greatly, but there was nothing he could do about it. My brother had thrown away his honor and betrayed the Starfighter Legion and all of humanity in the process. All I could do was glare at him, my soul filled with the rage of humanity for what he did to us. How I came to be sitting there across from him is a long story…

   I had more to prove than most, and not just because I was one of the few women that applied to become a Starfighter. I was the youngest child in a large family. I had seven older siblings, all of whom were boys. I was the only girl in the family. Most of my brothers tormented me and I learned to fight at an early age in order to survive.

   My oldest brother was a Starfighter, and at a young age I was determined to become a Starfighter too -- just like him. He had been a Starfighter before I was even born. He was the only brother I had that was actually nice to me. It was because of his example that I became determined to become a Starfighter. When we heard about what he did, our family was devastated; I was devastated and felt personally betrayed by him. For a Starfighter to defect to the other side was an unspeakable crime against humanity, and to aid the enemy in the process made his crime beyond thought. We had to move and change our family name to hide our shame. Ten years later I signed up to be a Starfighter. That was five years ago. I flew escort for convoys most of the time, and the occasional long-range scouting mission. I've only had one convoy get jumped -- none of the bug fighters got through, though. I picked up a record of my own. The most bug fighters killed in the shortest amount of time. I killed ten bug fighters in less than five minutes. Stupid bugs and dumb luck, but they gave me a medal for it.

   My current assignment is escorting a peace delegation to the bug home world and back again. A whole squadron of the best fighter pilots the Starfighter Legion has to offer escorting an unarmed destroyer converted for diplomatic missions. Mostly we were there just to impress the bugs. The bugs never attacked one of our diplomatic envoys. There has been, on the whole, a lot less fighting between us and the bugs since we began talking to the bugs four years ago.

   I am told that the bug government was nearing a state of collapse. The bugs have suffered severe losses of whole battle groups in the last few years and can no longer afford to continue their war with us. That was mostly due to good intelligence and our selective use of nuclear weapons -- weapons we have yet to use on their home world. If they continue the war much longer the government will go bankrupt, and their economy will collapse.

   We were allowed to roam the capital city where the peace talks were being held. We were under orders to be on our best behavior. We were not allowed to call the bugs, bugs; at least, not to their faces. We had received a much better welcome than I would have expected given the fact that we are winning the war. There were anti-war protesters all over the city. It was plain to see that most of the bugs on this world are not in favor of the war, but there were a few that could not let go of the war or the hate.

   I spent my first couple of days window shopping at the many malls and open-air shopping centers that the city had to offer. The bugs were openly friendly toward me. Well, at least the shop owners were friendly. Most of the bugs just stared at me in amazement never having seen a human before. One morning I walked into an amazing dress shop filled with some of the most exquisite dresses that I had ever seen. It seemed like it had been forever since I had even worn a dress much less visited a store. I stood there drooling over a gorgeous black and white full length strapless dress. It was mostly black with gentle white swirls throughout the fabric of the dress Even if my money was good on this planet I would not have been able to afford a dress like that.

   "Try it on," a voice behind me said.

   "Pardon?" I said, turning to see who had spoken to me. I had never really understood what some of the men in the Starfighter Legion said about the bug women giving us human females a run for our money until that moment. I found myself staring at one of the most attractive bug females that I had yet encountered so far.

   "If you like the dress, try it on," she said.

   "I could not possibly afford it, even if they would take my money," I replied.

   "What if money were not an issue? Would you try it on then?" she asked.

   "Well, I suppose," I started to reply.

   "Good, then let's find one your size, and you can go try it on."

   "But, I…." I started to say something, but the bug cut me off again before I could get two words out of my mouth.

   "Humor the bug," she said smiling. I was stunned. Never in my life had I heard a bug refer to itself that way. As far as I knew, bugs hated it when we called them bugs. "That is what you call us, isn't it? So humor the bug, and try on the dress."

   "Who are you?" I asked a bit dumbfounded.

   "My name is Ankneesheia. And what is your name, Starfighter?"

   "I'm Janet." She had to have been in the military, on one of their ships perhaps, to recognize me as a Starfighter.

   "Well, Janet, I can tell that it has been a while since you have been shopping. Half the fun is trying on things you will never buy in the first place. So do you want to have fun, or do you just want to walk around looking at stuff?"

   Strange are the twists of fate -- a couple of billion light-years from home on a world we are at war with, and I had found a friend. Before I knew it, I had tried on half a dozen dresses. Ankneesheia bought me a couple of the dresses I tried on over my objections and then took me to lunch. We must have darted into a dozen more shops before we reached the café. I was starting to have a really good time.

   The café was a nice little place and the food was excellent. We were almost finished with our meal when a couple of bug soldiers walked in. They spotted me right off. The dress uniform of a Starfighter is hard to miss. They made a beeline straight for our table.

   "Starfighters must be getting desperate if they are using females to help fight their war," one of them said as he came to a halt next to me.

   "You wouldn't be fraternizing with the enemy now would you darling?" the other one said to Ankneesheia. He leaned on the table and glared at her.

   "Haven't you heard, the war will be over soon," Ankneesheia replied. "I'm getting a head-start on making human friends."

   "Well, maybe I don't like your friends. Maybe we'll show her how much we don't like her and her kind," the bug snapped back.

   "If you don't like her then you really wouldn't like my husband either," Ankneesheia said calmly.

   I wasn't just going to sit there and do nothing. I reached up and grabbed the bug hovering over Ankneesheia by the collar and pulled down hard. His face came to a hard stop on the edge of our table. I let him go and he slid the rest of the way to the floor unconscious. I reached over and grabbed his friend where it would hurt the most. "I wasn't looking for trouble, but no, you had to come in and spoil a perfectly good day," I said as I tightened my grip on a very tender part of his anatomy. "While I’ve got you by your brains and have your full attention, let me tell you something. I had to work ten times harder than anyone else to become a Starfighter, and not just because I am a woman, either. You want to pick a fight with me, bring more friends so I can get a decent workout pounding your face into the ground." I tightened my grip even more, pulling and twisting at the same time. The bug crumpled to the floor howling in pain and holding himself. "I think I've had my quota of fun for today," I told Ankneesheia.

   It was a long walk back to the spaceport. I bid Ankneesheia goodbye and thanked her for the dresses and for her kindness. I no sooner reached the destroyer and checked in than I found myself besieged by junior diplomats. It seems that they had everyone out looking for me, and I had no clue why. In a very short time I found myself standing in front of our ambassador to the bugs. I figured he had heard about the fight, and I was in trouble.

   "Ah, good, they found you," he said when I walked into the room.

   "Sir, may I ask what this is all about?" I asked.

   "We have had another wrinkle thrown at us during the negotiations today. They are adding several leaders of the anti-war movement to their diplomatic team," the ambassador replied.

   "What does that have to do with me?"

   "Your brother is one of those chosen by the bugs to represent the anti-war movement. This turn of events has taken us by complete surprise." He wasn't the only one taken by surprise. It would have been less of a surprise if they had stood me out on the runway and dropped a fighter on me. "We want you to join us as part of our diplomatic team tomorrow."

   "Me, sir?"

   "Yes, you. We want to use you as a counterbalance. The bugs are pretty straightforward, but a human adds an element of unpredictability to the negotiations. We are on the verge of ending the war. I don't need any problems now."

   "How is that a problem if he is a leader in the anti-war movement, sir?" I asked.

   "It depends if his interests are the interests of humanity or the bugs," the ambassador replied. "If it is the latter then we could find ourselves having to deal with a whole new set of conditions imposed on us that the bugs have not yet thought of themselves. At the very worst it could cause an impasse and prolong the war. If this was any other place I would have him arrested for treason and taken into custody for his crimes against humanity. However, this is the bugs' home world, and your brother is highly thought of in several influential circles. With you there it might remind him of his ties to humanity."

   That is how I found myself sitting across from my brother at the peace negotiation table. I was more than a little surprised to find Ankneesheia sitting next to him. She was equally surprised to find out that I was her husband's sister. There were a thousand questions I wanted to ask, but only one word came out of my mouth. "Why?" I asked. "Why Tom, why did you do it?"

   "To save a friend, and to put an end to the war," he replied as he took Ankneesheia's hand and kissed it. The look they gave each other spoke volumes.

   "But you betrayed humanity in the process," I said.

   "I betrayed nothing Janet, and there are a few in the Starfighter Command who know that to be a fact," Tom replied. "I am one of the main leaders in the anti-war movement here. That should tell you something right there, but I have family and a lot of friends here. I want to make sure that the Kelgarons are not taken advantage of; I had to do a lot of talking to get here. Now that I'm here I’m going to make sure that we come away with a peace accord that both sides can live with. Everybody wins and we all go home happy."

   "It may be as you say, but that does not change the fact that the whole world and everyone in the Starfighter Legion thinks of you as a traitor. What you did nearly destroyed our family. We had to move and change our name. There is nothing you can say that would make that alright."

   "I did what I had to do; and if I had to make the same choice over again, I would do it all over again in exactly the same way. It was Starfighter Command that turned the whole incident into a major case of espionage. All I did was retire and help Ankneesheia escape life as a prisoner of war."

   "Tom, once the war is over the truth will come out. You don’t have to explain yourself," Ankneesheia said.

   "He's my brother and he does have to explain himself. At least to me, he does. You have no idea of all the crap that I have had to put up with on account of him," I snapped back.

   "No, he is a Starfighter and he does not and cannot explain himself to you," Ankneesheia replied. "There is much you do not know, and much we cannot tell you. You want answers; look for them in the halls of Starfighter Command. My husband has said all he can on the subject. You are distracting us from our mission here."

   The ambassador was right. The negotiations ended in an impasse, but we got a cease fire out of the bugs. The meeting ended on a very positive note. The ambassador was not altogether unhappy with how things went. He was confident that a peace accord would be hammered out during the next round of meetings. When we returned I went straight to Starfighter Command Headquarters.

   I tried to look up my brother's letter of resignation only to find that it was classified. Almost at every turn I ran into big red letters on the screen telling me that information regarding my brother was classified. Meanwhile, someone else had taken notice of my search. As I was trying to find a way around the wall that blocked me from the information that I wanted, two security guards came in and hauled me away from the computer console. They took me down to a large intimidating office where the commander of the Starfighter Legion sat behind a big desk. He waved the security guards out, and they left me standing there alone. I knew I was in trouble.

   "The ambassador should have never involved you in this matter," he said without looking up from what he was doing. A few moments passed before he set his pen down and looked up at me. "I have been keeping an eye on you for some time now. It was the least we could do for your brother. I must say you have earned your own way, though. Top of your class and you hold some very impressive records too, but you should learn not to ask so many questions. You were beginning to make some people very nervous with your inquiries, and you could endanger your brother's life."

   "Please tell me why, Admiral. All I want to know is the truth." It was a reasonable request.

   The admiral got up and paced before his office window for a few moments. "Your brother stole a fighter and helped a prisoner of war escape," he said as he turned back to face me. He paused for a few seconds before he continued. "He also gave us the coordinates to the bugs' home world, and gave us our first look at their planetary defenses. With his help we have been able to tap into their computer systems worldwide. He has become one of the main leaders of the anti-war movement on their world, and he is well-respected both in and out of their world government system. History will judge your brother to be one of the key elements that ended our war with the bugs. But for now, he must remain a traitor to humanity for just a little while longer, and you will not repeat anything you have just heard."

   It all began to make sense. "So his letter of resignation outlined what he was planning and that is why it was classified."

   "Pretty much; think of it as his decision to go out in a flaming ball of glory. His choice is a victory for us all. I don't mean just for humanity, but for the bugs as well. Nothing you have been through can compare to what your brother has endured for us all. We can never repay him, but when the time is right we shall try, and the world will know what he has done for us."

   I returned to the bugs' home world for the final negotiations that drafted the peace accord between our two species. The ambassador did not have me sit in on the negotiations as before even though my brother was still representing the bugs. Somebody must have said something to him. It left me with a lot of free time to go shopping with Ankneesheia.

   Being Tom's sister opened a lot of doors for me on the bugs' home world. Doors that I would have never guessed were there. After the negotiations were over I was granted shore leave, and spent a couple of months touring the planet. I met Tom and Ankneesheia’s two lovely children, and spent some time getting to know my brother again. I even let Tom take my fighter up for a spin around the planet with his kids along for the ride. My whole world had changed.

   I had found the answer to my question. It had been a question of honor that had went unanswered all my life. For my brother it had been more than that. He had seen a chance to save us all and took it; regardless of the cost and what the world might think of him. The Admiral was right. It was his flaming ball of glory but it did not end in death, but rather victory for us all.